Changes to the New ACT and SAT Essays

Both the ACT and SAT essays will be changing within the next 14 months. The ACT will implement its new essay format with the September 12th, 2015 test date, and the SAT will likely premier its new optional essay on its January 24th, 2016 test.

One of the key reasons behind the overhauls is that in their current states, both essays can be written to formula.

The ACT prompt, for instance, usually deals with some act or fiat imposed on schools: random locker checks, video cameras in the playground, school uniforms…and the essay writer needs to either agree or disagree with the proposal and then offer up two supporting examples. One girl who received a 12 ( on both the SAT and ACT a perfect score) on her ACT essay mentioned she always disagrees with whatever is being imposed upon the schools, states the opposing argument, destroys it, offers up two solid examples that support her thesis, and then concludes, ending with a ‘zinger,’ disengaging with a profound statement.   

The new ACT essay will focus on controversial issues such as global warming, GMOs, or the role of art in society. The response needs to include a logical argument with cogent examples, but now there will be three short quotes expressing a spectrum of views. The test taker will need to evaluate the quality of the responses and build those evaluations into the essay.  The ACT still has not announced whether it will add more time to the current 30-minute limit.

Possibly, the announced ACT essay changes are an effort to preempt the proposed 2016 changes to the SAT essay. The SAT essay (as is the entire test) is undergoing profound changes. 

Currently the SAT essay prompts deal with concepts: “Should freedom be sacrificed for safety?” or such profound questions as, “Is there a good war or a bad peace?” Smart, well-trained students will respond with an essay that shows  mastery over style, syntax, structure, and logic, is legible, has four paragraphs with two cogent examples spread over two pages (since many studies indicate that SAT essay scorers favor length). The problem has been that students may use examples that are completely fabricated. As David Coleman, the president of the College Board guilelessly remarked, the writing section ‘does not grade you on the correctness of what you write.”

To avoid such travesties writing rampant on the New SAT, its essay requires ‘cogent and clear written analysis’ using evidence from a ‘challenging source text.’ The essay prompt will not vary much from test to test; rather, it will be the passage that determines the essay’s challenge. One of the sample essays I reviewed was adapted from Paul Bogard’s Let There be Dark and the prompt asked, ‘…explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved.’ Careful reading and analysis are integral to the new essay writing process.

Instead of 25 minutes, the new SAT essay will allot 50. The passages will consistently be 650-750 words; the scoring system is still under review, through one provisional scheme would divide the 12 points among critical reading, analysis, and writing.  

Regardless of how you might dress up the new SAT essay contention abounds. One such critic, James Murphy, a tutor for the Princeton Review, contends (“Don’t Overhaul the SAT Essay, Dump It”, 18 October 2014 Wall Street Journal) that the new SAT essay is too long, making the essay writing more an endurance test; that he already has a plan to address the 50-minute essay with 6 paragraphs, chunking analysis into increasingly smaller components; and, that the new SAT essay ‘does not contribute to the overall predictive nature of the exam. He adds that in a recent survey of admissions officers, 67% said that the writing section had little to do with the final admissions decision.

Regardless of how efficacious either essay is in determining an applicant’s capabilities, the ACT and SAT essay changes are attempting to better incorporate reading, analysis and writing. How EB White or HL Menken might have done on either of these new incarnations is open to speculation.   

The Test Optional Alternative

While many parents and students are still wrestling with the interchangeability of the ACT and the SAT; the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) released a study in February 2014 showing there is no perceptible difference in academic performance between students who do and do not submit ACT or SAT scores.

The Redesigned SAT

At last the new redesigned SAT was formerly announced on 5 March 2014 ending months of speculation about its content.

The new test content will be first administered in the fall 2015 PSAT, with the SAT launch in ‘spring 2016.’  

The New SAT will eliminate the quarter point guessing penalty, obviate ‘obscure vocabulary’ from its reading sections—stressing discovery of meaning through context, and require students to support their answers to reading questions from evidence supplied in the passage.

On the mathematics front, the New SAT will focus on problem solving and data analysis (ratios, percentages, and proportions), linear equations and systems, and something that sounds a bit daunting, “Passport to Advanced Math” which deals with ‘manipulation of complex equations’. In essence the New SAT will be narrowing its math focus to the three aforementioned areas (though it reserves the right to add or change areas as needed to ensure its math questions are applicable to a wide range of majors and careers).         

The problems a student will encounter in the New SAT are based on ‘real-world contexts’.  For this it will offer ‘evidence-based reading and writing sections’ with questions that  cover literature and ‘literary non-fiction’  including charts, graphs and prose, similar to what can be found in science, social science majors and careers. These are the same type of questions addressed in the ACT Science section, and in its social science and natural science reading passages.

Moreover, the redesigned SAT will also have questions that will make students apply their suite of skills to ‘science, history, and social studies’.

Any seasoned high school counselor who hears this description without the words, “ redesigned New SAT” would leap to the conclusion that it describes the ACT, but, admittedly, there are some unique additions that make the New SAT a shade or two different.         

Specifically, the New SAT will now offer, for lack of a better description, a ‘Great Books’ section that  features a selection from America’s founding documents, such as the Federalist Papers, the US Constitution, or a text from the ‘Great Global conversation’ about freedom, justice, and human dignity.         

Furthermore, the writing section (with its improving, correcting, and editing sentences) will be optional. This is surprising as the addition of the SAT Writing subject test was the major redesign feature added to the 2005 SAT facelift (at the insistence of the University of California which if denied would have eliminated the SAT admissions requirement). Many institutions, however, don’t even consider the writing score in their admissions calculations.

The redesigned SAT will be three hours long, with an additional 50 minutes allocated to the essay. It will also return to its pre-2005 1600 point scale (the essay score will be reported separately), and will have both a print and online version.

Lastly, the redesigned SAT will attempt to curtail the need for expensive test prep services by allying with Khan Academy ( which will offer 200 videos, free, covering the main topics of the test.

When Donald Coleman made the announcement of the changes to the test, he opined, “It is time to admit that the SAT and ACT have become disconnected from the work of our high schools… [students] are skeptical that either the SAT or the ACT allows them to show their best work…”  A more accurate description would have been that the ACT, which is already well situated to assess the curriculum-based skills that are at the foundation of Donald Coleman’s Common Core State Standards, is now being joined by the redesigned SAT. We know curriculum-based testing has worked well for the ACT, as it’s now the dominant standardized test in America.  The SAT covets a place at the ACT table. How the test taker and the college admissions offices benefit from having two curriculum-based tests is anyone’s guess.   

New SAT Delayed

In February of 2013 the new president of the College Board, David Coleman, announced a complete redesign of the SAT would be unveiled in the spring of 2015: this has been delayed a year.

The new SAT format will be contained in the fall 2015 PSAT with the revised SAT releasing in spring 2016. Robert Schaeffer of Fair Test, ever the sceptic of College Board endeavors, opined: “I always thought that David Coleman’s initial target of a spring 2015 rollout for the latest ‘new’ SAT was incredibly optimistic, given the College Board’s normal process for developing items.”

This delay, though, shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Ostensibly, the reason Mr. Coleman gives for delaying the release is that many of the admissions departments were requesting more time to prepare for the adjustment. Yet, there is a lot that has to be accomplished in 18 months. The new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) need to be implemented across the 45 states that have signed up, then the assessment of the CCSS, which will become the new SAT, needs to be finalized, and lastly the College Board needs to get as many states as possible to adopt the new SAT as a mandatory statewide assessment tool.  A delay is not surprising, whether or not the cause is the admissions officers.

So where did the CCSS come from and are its objectives achievable? CCSS originated in the National Governors Association for best practices among high schools. Dr. Louisa Moats, a well-known researcher, teacher, and psychologist was recruited in the CCSS effort in 2009 by David Coleman to write the ‘Reading Foundation Skills’ section. The skills covered in CCSS are geared to students planning to attend 4-year highly selective colleges. Dr. Moats states: “Realistically at least half, if not the majority of students are not going to meet those standards as written…” Furthermore, she believes: “Many of our teachers are not qualified or prepared to teach the standards we have written.”

Sandra Stotsky, a professor of Education at the University of Arkansas, and a member of the consortium that created Common Core, told “Everyone is willing to believe that Common Core standards are rigorous, competitive, internationally bench-marked and research-based. They are not.”

Obviously, the concerns surrounding any national curriculum, including the CCSS, tend to be volatile. Nevertheless it is fully supported by the Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan who claims much of the anxiety over CCSS is based on ‘misinformation.’ 45 states, however, have signed on. To help the adoption process, the federal government offers grants through the Race to the Top program. Colorado, for example, received $18 million when it joined.   

The new SAT, as an assessment tool to measure the efficacy of the CCSS will incorporate a number of changes including making vocabulary more practical (eliminating words such as ‘treacly’ in favor of words like ‘deliberate’.) The essay portion of the Writing section will emphasize argument using examples from supplied source materials. Math will feature understanding concepts and procedures. CCSS, unlike the ACT, currently contains no assessments for science or social studies.  

In the meantime the ACT, which from its creation was a curriculum-based test, is mandatory in eleven states, including Colorado. Delaware is the only state with 100% participation on the SAT. If through creating the assessment for CCSS, the SAT can capture a portion of these states, in a manner like the ACT, the College Board will have transformed itself into a curriculum-based standard and regained its perch high atop the world of standardized college testing.

The question remains: can the SAT outdo the ACT at its own game? Though the real question should be: how best are test-taking students served by two curriculum based standardized tests? The answer will emerge over the next half a decade.   

Report on Upcoming Changes to SAT & ACT

When College Board president David Coleman addressed the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) conference in Toronto two weeks ago, he confirmed that the new SAT, slated for delivery in 2015, will be undergoing substantial changes, especially the Essay section.

Coleman, during his address, posited the idea of a new and improved SAT essay: “What if you were analyzing a source and using evidence from that source. Might such an essay prompt celebrate analytic writing?”

Jon Reider, a counselor from San Francisco University High School, suggested getting rid of the essay altogether. First he mentioned that one of his students, who was at the top of his English class, complained that he received a low score on the essay. Reider’s response was, “you are a good English student and you’ve been taught to stop and think before you write, but that’s not an asset on this test.” Reider continued: “I challenge anyone in the room: Have you ever sat down for professional purposes to write about a question you have never seen before, in which the accuracy of what you write is totally and utterly meaningless.”

Coleman’s response was: “…you’ve got a point. You really do.” Besides the essay portion getting a makeover, the SAT vocabulary is also under the magnifying glass.

‘SAT words,’ words you might see on the SAT and never use or hear again, will probably be banished from the 2015 revision. Coleman plans to jettison such words as ‘membranous,’ “treacly,’ and ‘mawkish,’ and supplant them with more commonly used words such as ‘synthesis,’ ‘distill,’ and ‘transform.’

Coleman, who co-created the Common Core Standards has set benchmarks for learning by grade and seems to be chewing at the bit to incorporate subject standards into the SAT, which is exactly what the ACT already delivers. When this was pointed out at the conference, Coleman dismissed the remark by saying he wasn’t going into a Pepsi versus Coke argument.  Instead he asserted that: “The heart of the revised SAT will be analyzing evidence. The College Board is reaching out to teachers and college faculty to help us design questions that, for example, could ask students to use math to analyze the data on an economics study or the results of a scientific experiment, or analyze the evidence provided within texts in literature, history, geography or natural science.” Coleman’s remarks were long on concepts and short on specifics for good reason: he must consult with the College Board members on each element of the redesign.

While the SAT is undergoing a facelift, the ACT is by no means settling into complacency. In 2015 the ACT will be administered on computer, as well as paper. The computerized version will contain free-response questions and images on-screen (especially the science section) that will allow a student to adjust an experiment to determine relationships between, say, distance and pressure. This pending proposed version of the ACT elicits more questions than it answers: which questions will be graded by the computer, which by humans? How will the ACT keep the versions comparable? There is no rest for the weary—either the test makers or takers. Regardless of how these details work themselves out, the ACT assures future test takers that the basic content will not change.     

Of course no matter the changes to either standardized test, detractors remain. Richard Schaeffer, the director of FairTest, an advocate of dispensing with these standardized tests, notes that despite the changes both have made  throughout the years, neither test has proven capable of predicting college performance, nor explaining gaps in predicting female, male, and low income student performance. In the meantime, 3.3 million students will be taking one or both of these tests over the next 12 months—this is big business—so the tweaking will go on.

The Proposed Redesign of the SAT

2012 proved to be a challenging year for the College Board and its SAT.

For the first time since the SAT’s inaugural administration in 1926, another test, the ACT, was administered to more students. Though the ACT nosed ahead by a mere 2,000 students, the repercussions are still reverberating throughout the College Board headquarters in New York City. By fall of last year, the College Board had selected a new president, David Coleman. By February, Coleman wrote to his fellow board members: “While the SAT is the best standardized measure of college and career readiness currently available, the College Board has a responsibility to the millions of students we serve each year to ensure that our programs are continuously evaluated and enhanced…” (, 10 April 2013, College Board Announces Plans to Redesign the SAT by Scott Jaschik)

No specifics were given.

The last, and only time, the SAT was overhauled was in 2005, when it discarded the analogy section and added the writing section, at the request of the University of California.

By 2008, the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) released a report suggesting colleges should reconsider the need for standardized tests. Over the same period of time, over 80 additional 4-year colleges adopted test-optional or test flexible policies. Today over 38% of all four-year colleges are either test flexible or test optional and the list contains such highly selective schools as Middlebury, NYU, and Wake Forest.

Obviously the 2005 overhaul did not effectively qualm the concerns of the test-taking market. This was reflected most starkly in the comments by Robert Schaeffer, the director of Fair Test and an inveterate critic of the SAT: “…the previous attempt to create a ‘new Coke’ was rejected by the marketplace, so it became necessary to ‘reformulate’ the product once again in order to remain competitive with the ACT.” (Ibid.)

Though we can only speculate at what the new SAT will be like, there are a few clues as to what might lie ahead.

David Coleman who attended Yale, studied English literature at Oxford on a Rhodes and co-founded, in 2007, the Student Achievement Partners, a non-profit organization involved in developing Common Core standards, appears intent on incorporating these Common Core standards into the SAT. (A Common Standard for reading at the 11-12th grade level, for example, would be, “Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development.” The full suite of Common Core standards can be found at He wrote in his College Board February missive: “The improved SAT will strongly focus on the core knowledge and skills that evidence shows are most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career.”

That, however, is what the ACT has been doing for decades with its ‘College Readiness Standards’ across its entire suite of tests: EXPLORE, PLAN, and the ACT. When hearing of the proposed SAT redesign, a spokesman for the ACT commented that the, “ACT was founded 54 years ago because ETS and College Board rejected EF Lindquist’s proposal to change the SAT from an aptitude test to an achievement test. Dr. Lindquist, along with co-founder Ted McCarrell subsequently decided to develop his own achievement test, which became the ACT in 1959…” (Ibid.)

Coleman, in a 2011 speech at the Brookings Institute, prior to his becoming president of the College Board, also noted weaknesses in the essay portion of the SAT. Rather than allow students to blithely supply their own examples he felt source examples should be added for students to review and edit to make their arguments more cogent and exacting.  

Another redesign within eight years of its last overhaul indicates the SAT is undergoing an identity crisis. Initially, the SAT stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test. The IQ association, and the scorn that brought, led the College Board to change the acronym to Scholastic Assessment Test. Now it’s just the SAT. Possibly in the future it will mirror the ACT—which makes you wonder whether test-takers will then clamor for SAT Classic.

With this redesign, the College Board will lose much more than a quarter point if it makes the wrong choice.   


The SAT or the ACT?

To take the SAT, the ACT, or both is the question. About a fifth of test takers show a preference. The best way to discover if you’re part of the fifth is by taking ACT’s PLAN and the PSAT sophomore year. If you’re a junior you might, instead, take Princeton Review’s free SAT-ACT diagnostic test.

A number of students, however, take both the SAT and ACT to cover any standardized test requirements. This might seem judicious, yet if a college believes that an applicant is too test oriented, it will begin to question what such a candidate will contribute outside the classroom.   

Virtually all college admissions offices will gladly take either the SAT or ACT test to fulfill their standardized testing requirements. Some of the most elite schools in the country, including Amherst College, Brown, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Pomona College, Tufts, University of Pennsylvania, and Vassar, will accept the ACT with Writing instead of the SAT and the SAT subject tests.

So which test should you take? OK, if you're applying to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or the University of Rochester, you might elect to take the SAT. These admissions offices like to see SAT scores. Regardless, even if you submit only an ACT to any of them, they can easily convert your ACT score into a comparable SAT score.

The College Board itself issues an official 'ACT/SAT concordance chart,' downloadable at the College Board website. Then again, it is a fact that the SAT is rooted in the Ivy League: the original administration of the test in 1926 was to 8,026 Ivy League scholarship students. Regardless, however much you might want to cater to the whims of an admissions office, the standardized test you submit will, in virtually all cases, not sink or make your application. A 2220 on the SAT will not trump a 33 composite on the ACT.

The decision as to which test should more be a matter of personal preference. If you are good at taking high school classroom tests, then the ACT might be the better test for you. It is curriculum based; it attempts to measure your mastery of key high school skills. For example, in geometry, you were taught the 30-60-90 triangle. Be assured there will be a question about it on the ACT. The SAT, on the other hand, measures reasoning and logic. The ACT does not penalize guessing; the SAT does. The ACT has a separate science section; the SAT does not. The ACT math contains a bit of trigonometry; the SAT doesn't.

Whether you plan to take the SAT or ACT, the best guide to purchase for the SAT is the College Board’s ‘The Official SAT Study Guide’ which contains 10 release exams, and for the ACT,/  Peterson’s ’Real ACT Prep Guide’, which contains five released exams. Don’t waste your time reading their test taking strategies—just take the tests and review in detail what you got wrong and understand why. Only use real exams to study for the tests. What’s the point of using an interpretation of the test? It makes no sense

Take as many practice tests as possible. You need to get an intuitive sense of the pacing of the test. The ACT in particular requires rigorous pacing. The ACT contains 215 questions to be answered in 175 minutes. This comes to 49 seconds a question. A successful test taker needs to make such timing innate across all sections of the test.

Yet beyond the relative merits of the ACT and SAT, a lot of schools are opting out of the standardized tests altogether. Just go to to see the current list of over 800 colleges and universities that do not require students to submit standardized tests with their applications. So, what does all this add up to? Complete lack of uniformity among our colleges and constant questioning of the role of standardized tests in the admissions process. There are no right answers, just different approaches. You, in the end, are the final judge as to which serves your purposes best. This is the American postsecondary educational system and it shouldn't, and probably never will, be any other way.

NACAC Survey on the SAT stirs up controversy

  •      Score Improvements of 20-30 points can be decisive
  •      Test Preparation efforts help, ever so slightly

The NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) in September 2008 released a study by a special panel led by William Fitzsimmons, the dean of admission and financial aid at Harvard, on standardized testing and its effects on undergraduate admissions. The panel recommended that colleges drop the ACT or SAT as an admission requirement, and advised US News and World Report to remove standardized test scores from the criteria used in its college rankings. Now, however, the NACAC just released a new survey in May containing studies indicating that admissions offices are now more dependent than ever on standardized test scores.  What a difference eight months can make.

Actually, even the September 2008 panel survey found that college admission offices continued to attach ‘considerable importance’ to test scores. In 1995, less than half did; by 2005, 60% did. This contrasted with a decline of 10% in using GPA, as grade inflation depreciated this factor on many applications. The new survey, however, unearthed a rather startling discovery: “…in a substantial minority of cases, colleges report either that they use a cut-off test score in the admission process or that a small increase in test scores could have a significant impact on an applicant’s chances of being admitted.” (p.2, “Preparation for College Admission Exams,” by Dr. Derek Briggs, NACAC, May, 2009). It’s commonly acknowledged that selective schools use a cut-off score for the TOEFL IBT; for example a perfect score is 120: Stanford and Harvard have cut-offs of 100. This has not, however, been widely acknowledged when using standardized test scores.

This ‘small increase in test scores’ mentioned in the NACAC report was as little as 10 points on the SAT-CR section, and 20 points on the SAT-M section. Obviously, these point spreads are magnified when a student’s score reaches into the 700+ area. Assuming all the rest of an applicant’s qualifications are equal: GPA, transcript difficulty, recommendations, extracurricular, and essays, then admissions departments begin to rely ever more on standardized test scores.  By the way, the more selective institutions that responded to this survey (‘more selective’ defined as schools who accept less than 50% of its applicants) comprise a universe of 33.

Another area the NACAC survey measured was the effect of test preparation services on students’ scores. On average, an applicant’s SAT –CR score increased 8-10 points, and SAT-M, 18-20 points, with coaching.  These results were fairly constant over a series of studies conducted on test-takers from 1990-1992, and 2002-2004. Which immediately leads us to a very crucial question: if the standard increase attained through commercial test preparation companies is really 30 points, how is it that many give guarantees of 200 points or more?

The Wall Street Journal asked the same question in its article, “SAT Coaching Found to Boost Scores—Barely” (Wall Street Journal, 20 May 2009, One of the companies profiled, Elite Educational Institute of Irvine, California, “advertises a 240-point average increase in SAT scores, calculating the increase in comparison with its own diagnostic exam.” (Ibid.) After an inquiry from a reporter, according to the Wall Street Journal, “the company plans to take the claim…off its website.” (Ibid.)  Kevin Sung, Elite’s COO, said through a spokeswoman, “Any test-prep company that gives you their (sic) own test with their (sic) own score scale could be accused of fudging the numbers to make students think they improved more than they really had.”

The debate over all aspects of standardized testing will continue in light of the NACAC surveys that seem to arrive with ever more frequency. American football has been described as a game of inches. It appears the SAT might be described as an exam of 30 points. At the highest level of competitive schools, once past the 700-sectional threshold, every single point begins to matter, or so says this recent batch of research from the NACAC.  

대학입학 상담가협회(NACAC) SAT영향력 조사

  • 20-30점이 결정적 요인이 된다
  • 시험준비기관의 도움은 미미하다

2008년 9월 대학입학 상담가 협회에서는 대학입학과 표준시험의 영향력에 대하여 Harvard 대학의 입학/재정 학장인 William Fitzsimmons가 이끈 특별 패널회의에서 연구결과를 발표했다.  그 패널회의에서는 대학들이 ACT, SAT의 표준고사의 성적을 빼도록 추천했으며, US News and World Report에는 대학의 등급에 사용되는 기준에서 표준고사 성적을 제외시킬 것을 건의했다.  그러나 현재 상담가 협회에서는 이번에 입학사정에서 이전보다 표준고사 시험성적에 더 의존적이었다는 결과를 5월에 발표했다.  이론과 실제의 8개월동안 너무 큰 차이가 생겼다. 

사실 2008년 9월 위원회  설문조사에서도 대학입학 사정실에서는 시험점수에 ‘상당한 중요성’을 두고 있는 것으로 밝혀졌다.  1995년에는 반정도의 학교가 그랬다; 2005년까지는 60%에서 그랬다.  한편, GPA는 점수인플레이션으로 많은 원서에서 10%의 평가절하되었다.  이번 설문조사에서 다소 놀라운 발견이 있었다.  “….상당수 소수계의 경우에 있어서, 대학들이 컷오프 점수를 적용하거나 또한 시험점수의 약간의 차이가 입학에 상당한 영향을 미친 것으로 보고되었다.” (p.2, “Preparation for College Admission Exams,” by Dr. Derek Briggs, NACAC, May, 2009).

보통 명문대학들에서 TOEFL IBT 점수에 컷오프를 사용하였다; 120점 만점에 Stanford, Harvard는 100점이 컷오프이다.  그러나, 표준시험 성적에 적용하지는 않았었다.

위원회 보고 서의 ‘시험의 미미한 높은 성적’ 은 SAT-CR의 10점, SAT-M의 20점 정도를 말한다.  결과적으로 이 점수차이는 학생이 각 영역에서 700점 이상을 받은 것을 의미한다.  모든 응시자의 다른 조건들(GPA, 학점의 난이도, 추천서, 특별활동, 에세이)이 동일하다고 할 때, 입학사정실은 표준시험 성적에 의존한다는 의미이다.  그런데, 우수 명문(응시자의 50%이하를 받아들이는 학교들)들이 이 설문조사에 참여하였으며, 모두 33개교 였다.

또 다른 설문조사는 시험준비 학원의 도움이 학생들의 점수에 영향력이 있는 지를 알아보는 것이었다.  평균적으로 SAT-CR은 8-10점이 상승하였고, SAT-M은 18-20점이 상승하였다.  이 결과들은 1990-1992년과 2002년-2004년에 걸쳐서 조사한 것이다.  그렇다면, 중요한 질문을 던지게 된다: 점수가 상업기관의 도움으로 30점이 상승된다면, 어떻게 이들은 200점 상승을 보장하는 것일까?

Wall Street Journal의 기사에서도 나타난다, “SAT  학원이 점수를 증대시키는가—거의 아니다” (Wall Street Journal, 20 May 2009,  이런 회사 중의 하나인 엘리트(Elite Educational Institute of Irvine, California)에서는 “진단평가 점수와 비교하여 240점을 상승시킬 수 있다”고 광고한다.  Wall Street Journal의 기자의 질문에서 엘리트 학원장인 Kevin Sung은 “회사가 웹사이트에서 이 광고를 삭제할 계획이다.  어떤 회사이든지 자신들이 만든 시험지로 자신들이 만든 점수표를 사용하여 학생이 실제 실력이 오른 정도 보다 점수가 많이 나오는 미봉책을 쓴다”고 대변인을 통해 전했다.

표준시험의 모든 국면에 대한 토론이 이 위원회에서는 안건으로 자주 거론될 것이다.  미식축구는 인치의 경기로 묘사되어 왔다.  SAT에서는 30점이 문제가 되는 시험인 것 같다.  최고의 명문대들에서는 700점대의 문턱을 넘으면, 일점이 문제시된다는 점을 이 위원회의 최근 연구에서 알 수 있다.

College Board’s Score Choice Launches March 2009

  • Students Can Select which Scores to Submit
  • Some Selective Schools at odds with Program
If you take the ACT, you have control over which scores are submitted to which colleges. It’s a practice the ACT has had since its inception. Now the College Board, following the ACT lead, is introducing Score Choice. If you want to get more information on Score Choice, go to the following link: to get a copy of the fact sheet, and a PowerPoint presentation. Score Choice launches this March and will be available through the College Board’s website or customer service department. Since over 85% of students sign up for College Board tests on-line, in all likelihood, that’s where you’ll first encounter Score Choice. When signing up for the March 2009 SAT or Subject Tests, you can select the option “Choose Scores” next to each college you want to send a score to; that’s Score Choice. If you’ve already taken SATs prior to March, those scores will fall under the control of Score Choice. However, if you don’t select “Choose Scores,” all your scores will automatically be sent to all your schools. Assuming you’re using Score Choice, you’ll get a new screen for each school receiving your score. The screen will contain information on how the school reviews SAT scores. For example, if one of the schools is Yale University, the screen will mention that it uses the “highest sections score practice.” You’ll then find listed below this information, your list of SAT test dates with the high scores for each section highlighted. Finally, before sending scores to your college, a summary screen appears for your review. Actually, this isn’t the first time the College Board has gone to an elective score reporting system. From 1993-2002, any student taking the SAT Subject Test, at the time called SAT II, could elect to report only the top scores to the colleges they were applying to. The College Board elected to dispense with this option because a lot of students were forgetting to send their scores and missing their admissions deadlines. With Score Choice, should you forget to send scores, you will automatically receive an email notification from the College Board. Additionally, the College Board also felt that ending the practice would be fairer to lower income students who took the tests less frequently. (“SAT Changes Policy, Opening Rift with Colleges,” by Sara Rimer,, 31 December 2008). With any change, and this is no different, comes controversy. William Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions at Harvard, who is also a member of NACAC, which recently released a scathing report on the value of standardized tests, likes the idea of students being able to select which scores to submit, “Score Choice will help defuse some of the pressure and give students a sense that not everything is riding on the tests, which really is the case.”This view, however, is not shared by a number of admissions officers at several other highly selective colleges including Stanford, Claremont McKenna, Pomona College, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Southern California. All of these schools want all the scores. Timothy Brunold, the USC director of admissions, mentioned in the 21 June 2008 LA Times: “We would prefer to see a student’s entire score history, because it gives us the context of how students earned their scores.” Bruce Poch, vice president and dean of admissions at Pomona College, is even more vocal on this point, “My own view is that tests are a transcript. I don’t get to choose which grades appear on a transcript any more than I get to suppress a driving record from an insurance company.” Score Choice is a calculated marketing ploy by the College Board to give it a more student focused feel (something its arch-rival, the ACT, has been nurturing since its inception). Regardless, anything that might reduce the gut wrenching pressures of the admissions process, and the specific stresses of standardized test performance, is welcome. It’s good that the College Board is trying to score points with its choice market, the student. Ralph Becker Founder, Ivy College Prep LLC --------------------------------------- 2009년 3월부터 College Board점수 선택 실시
  • 학생이 제출할 점수 선택
  • 명문대의 불신은 잔존
여러분이 ACT를 택했다면, 여러분은 여러 성적 중에서 어떤 성적을 대학에 보낼 지 결정할 수 있다.  ACT는 시작에서부터 이렇게 실시되었다.  이제 ACT를 따라서 College Board에서도 실시하게 되었으며, Power Point설명과 더불어 자세히 알리고 있다:  성적 선택이 올해 3월부터 실시되며, College Board의 웹싸이트와 고객 상담실을 통해 가능하다. 시험생의 85%가 온라인으로 시험을 신청하는데, 온라인에서 점수선택을 할 수 있다.  2009년 3월에 SAT/ Subject Tests를 본다면, 성적을 보낼 대학 다음에 “Choose Scores”의 선택을 택할 수 있다; 이것이 점수 선택(Score Choice)이다.  만약 여러분이 3월 이전에 SAT를 보았다면, 이 선택을 할 수 없다.  또한 여러분이 “Choose Scores”를 선택 않하면, 모든 점수는 자동으로 모든 대학으로 보내진다.  여러분이 이 선택을 한다고 할 때, 점수를 보내려는 대학들의 화면이 뜬다.  이 화면은 각 대학이 어떻게 SAT 점수를 보는지를 알려준다.  예를 들면, Yale 대학을 보면, 이 대학은 “가장 높은 영역별 성적”을 본다고 화면에서 알려준다.  그리고 여러분이 본 시험날짜에서 가장 높은 영역별 성적이 밝은 색깔로 나타난다.  마지막으로 성적을 대학에 보내기 전에 다시 화면이 나타나서 확인을 시켜준다. 사실, College Board에서 점수 선택 체계를 실시한 것이 이번이 처음은 아니다.  1993-2002까지 SAT Subject 시험(그 당시에는 SAT II로 불려짐)은 최고점을 선택해서 지망 대학에 보낼 수 있었다.  College Board가 이 선택을 없애 버린 이유는 많은 학생들이 점수 보내는 것을 잊어버리고 원서 마감일을 놓치기 때문이었다.  Score Choice에서는 점수 보내기를 잊어버리면, 자동으로 이메일로 통보를 받는다.  College Board는 이 시도가 시험을 덜 자주보는 낮은 수입의 가정의 학생들에게 더 공정한 것이라고 발표했다. 어떤 변화에도 반대는 있을 수 있다.  하바드대학의 입시 사정실 학장이며 NACAC회원인 William Fitzsimmons는 표준고사의 가치에 대해 불만스러운 보고서를 발표했었지만, 학생들이 보낼 점수를 선택할 수 있다는 점을 좋은 생각이라고 한다: “Score Choice는 학생들의 압박감을 줄여줄 수 있으며, 모든 것이 시험에 달려있다는 부담감을 덜 수 있는 경우가 된다.” 그러나, 이러한 견해가 다른 여러 명문대학들에서는 통하지 않는다: Stanford, Claremont McKenna, Pomona College, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Southern California.  이 대학들은 모든 성적을 원한다.  USC의 입학사정관인 Timothy Brunold는 2008년 6월 21일 LA Times에서 “우리는 학생의 전 성적을 선호한다.  이것이 학생이 성적을 얻은 과정을 알게 하기 때문이다.”  Pomona College의 부학장이며 입학담당 학장인 Bruce Poch는 이 관점을 확실히 한다: “나의 견해는 시험성적들이 성적표이다:”보험회사에서 운전 기록을 요구하는 것과 마찬가지로 성적표에 나타나 점수 중에서 선택해서 보지 않는다.” Score Choice는 학생들에게 더 호감을 주기 위한 College Board의 계산된 시장 책략이다(경쟁자인 ACT가 지속적으로 성장하고 있다).  그럼에도 불구하고, 입학사정 과정의 압박감을 줄여줄 수 있고, 표준고사의 시험 스트레스를 줄인다면 무엇이든 환영이다.  College Board가 점수선택으로 학생들의 점수를 얻고자 하는 점은 좋은 것이다.

The SAT under Siege

  • The ACT is Gaining Ground Nationally
  • More Schools are Dropping Testing Requirements Altogether
According to the September 6th LA Times article, "ACT is to SAT as..." the world of standardized tests is in flux. The ACT is rapidly gaining on the SAT. For the recent class of high school graduates, 1.4 million took the ACT, 1.5 million the SAT. Even in California, a regional SAT stronghold, 50% more students took the ACT in 2008 than did in 2004. Still, in all honesty, the raw numbers show that, last year, the SAT in California was taken by over 205,000 students, with 72,000 taking the ACT.  Yet, the ACT is starting to close the gap. One troubling piece of information the article mentioned was that, in California, 97% of college bound students still take the SAT, meaning the ACT is surging because these same students are taking both tests to cover all the bases in the ever competitive admissions process. This is a lot of wasted effort. Most college admissions offices will gladly take either test to fulfill their standardized testing requirements.  Some of the most elite schools in the country, including Amherst College, Brown, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Pomona College, Tufts, University of Pennsylvania, and Vassar, will accept the ACT instead of the SAT and the SAT subject tests. There might be better ways for these students to spend their time than taking two tests, when either will do. So which test should you take?  OK, I'll relent a little bit.  If you're applying to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or the University of Rochester, you might elect to take the SAT. These admissions offices like to see SAT scores. Regardless, even if you submit only an ACT to any of them, they can easily convert your ACT score into a comparable SAT score. The CollegeBoard itself issues an official 'ACT/SAT concordance chart,' downloadable at  Then again, it is a fact that the SAT is rooted in the Ivy League: the original administration of the test in 1926 was to 8,026 Ivy League scholarship students. Regardless, how ever much you might want to cater to the whims of an admissions office, the standardized test you submit will, in virtually all cases, not sink or make your application. A 2220 on the SAT will not trump a 33 composite on the ACT. The decision as to which test should more be a matter of personal preference. If you are good at taking high school classroom tests, then the ACT might be the better test for you. It is curriculum based; it attempts to measure your mastery of key high school skills. For example, if you were paying attention in geometry, you should know about a 30-60-90 triangle. Be assured there will be a question about it on the ACT.  The SAT, on the other hand, measures reasoning and logic. The ACT does not penalize guessing; the SAT does.  The ACT has a separate science section; the SAT does not. The ACT math contains a bit of trigonometry; the SAT doesn't. Yet beyond the constant skirmishes between the ACT and SAT, a lot of schools are opting out of the standardized tests altogether. Just go to to see the current list of over 770 colleges and universities that do not require students to submit standardized tests with their applications.  Further, just two weeks ago, Wake Forest, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Smith College, joined this list.  So, what does all this add up to? Complete lack of uniformity among our colleges and constant questioning of the role of standardized tests in the admissions process.  There are no right answers, just different approaches. You, in the end, are the final judge as to which serves your purposes best. This is the American postsecondary educational system and it shouldn't, and probably never will, be any other way. Ralph Becker Founder, Ivy Collge Prep LLC ------------------------------------- SAT 진퇴양란
  • ACT 전국적인 영역을 확장하고 있다.
  • 많은 대학들이 시험성적을 필수조항에서 제외시키고 있다.
LA Times 9월 6일의 기사,” ACT is to SAT as…”에 따르면, 표준시험의 세계가 넘쳐나고 있다고 한다.  ACT 가 급속도로 SAT를 따라잡고 있다.  최근 고교 졸업생 140만 명이 ACT를 보았고, 150만 명이 SAT를 보았다.  SAT가 강한 가주에서도 2004년에 비해 2008년에는 50%의 성장을 보였다.  그러나 여전히 숫자로 볼 때, 가주에서는 205,000명이 SAT를 본 반면, 72,000명이 ACT를 보았다.  이제 ACT는 이 격차를 좁히려 하고 있다. 위의 기사에서 지적하는 한가지 문제점은 가주의 대입시생의 97%가 SAT시험을 치며, ACT 응시자가 급등하는 것은 같은 학생이 입시사정에서 우위를 선점하고자 두 시험을 치르기 때문이라고 분석한다.  이것은 낭비적 노력이다.  대부분의 대학입학 사정실은 시험 요구조건으로 한가지 시험만을 요구한다.  명문대인 Amherst College, Brown, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Pomona College, Tufts, University of Pennsylvania, Vassar대학들은 SAT 대신 ACT와 SAT subject tests를 요구한다.  그러므로 두 시험을 치르는 시간을 아끼는 편이 좋다. 그러면, 여러분은 어떤 시험을 치러야 하는가?  필자가 더 쉽게 알려주겠다.    여러분이Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or the University of Rochester에 지원한다면, SAT를 치러야 한다.  이 대학들의 사정관들은 SAT 성적을 알고자 한다.  그러나, 여러분이 ACT성적만 제출한다면, 입학사정관들은 여러분의 성적을 SAT로 쉽게 환산할 수 있다.  College Board에서는 공식적인‘ACT/SAT concordance chart,’ (를 알려준다.  SAT는 원래 아이비 리그에서 시작되었다: 첫시험은 1926년 8,026명의 아이비 리그 장학생들이 치른 것이다.  그래도 여러분이 입학사정실에 맞추려 한다면, 표준시험 성적이 여러분의 입학원서에 결정적 영향을 주지는 못할 것이다.  SAT의 2220 점수가  ACT 의 33에 일치되는 않을 것이다. 어떤 시험을 보는냐는 개인의 기호의 문제이다.  만약 여러분이 학교에서의 시험에 잘한다면, ACT가 맞는 것이다.  이 시험은 커리큐럼기준이다; 여러분의 고교 학업 기능을 점검하는 것이다.  예를 들면, 기하를 공부할 때, 30-60-90 삼각형을 알아야 한다.  ACT에서는 이러한 질문이 있다.  반면, SAT시험은 이론과 논리를 측정한다.  ACT는 추측에 대한 벌점이 없는 반면, SAT는 있다.  ACT는 과학 분야가 있고, SAT는 없다.  ACT는 삼각법을 포함하지만, SAT는 없다. ACT와 SAT의 접전 중에, 많은 대학들이 시험성적을 선택사항으로 택하고 있다.  www.fairtest.org에 가면 시험성적을 요구하지 않는 770 대학들을 찾을 수 있다.  또한 2주전에 Wake Forest, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Smith College대학들이 이 리스트에 올랐다.  이 모든 일들의 의미는 무엇일까?  대학간의 통일성의 결함이며 입시사정 과정에서 표준 시험의 역할이 의문시된다는 것이다.  하나의 정답은 없으며, 단지 다른 접근방식의 선택이다.  여러분은 궁극적으로 여러분에게 가장 맞는 결정을 해야 한다.  이 과정이 미 고등교육의 체계이며 아마도 별로 달라지지 않을 것이다.

The Ever Growing Selectivity of USC

In 2007, USC admitted 25% of its applicants. For 2008, the number is 21%. Next year, there will be still more high school applicants, while the number of undergraduate spots available at USC will, yet again, decrease. This number is purposely being reduced by the USC administration to improve the quality of life, and the quality of the educational experience for its undergraduate community.  This is an admirable effort but, for those seeking admission to USC, the bar just keeps going up.  Furthermore, while USC admissions continues to become ever more selective, these numbers don't reflect that just under 600 seats each year are reserved for legacy students (alumni, donors, faculty relatives...) and then there are the athletic recruits-reducing the number a bit more.   USC is becoming ever more selective with each passing year-and as an alumnus of UCLA this is painful to watch. Whether USC will reach the selectivity level of Stanford (8% and dropping) is anyone's guess, but then USC football lost to Stanford in 2007, so why shouldn't USC attempt to gain on Stanford's selectivity? Tim Brunold, the Associate Dean and Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Southern California, described the ever competitive USC admissions process at a recent counselor workshop at Marymount College in Palos Verdes. I'm going to be equally selective in commenting on the portions of his presentation. When an application arrives at USC, the admissions office reviews the following components (in order of importance): the transcript, standardized test scores, essays and writing samples, extracurricular activities, recommendations, auditions/portfolios (for artists and performers), and interviews.  A great deal of the decision, assuming you can't run the 40 yard dash in 4.35 seconds or score three-point shots with 80% reliability, rests on the first two components. So let's explore Tim's comments on the transcript and standardized test scores. One issue that seems to vary among the highly selective schools is whether the admissions department scrutinizes transcripts beginning with the freshman or sophomore year? USC looks at all four years.  It wants to see a trend of progressively better grades and challenging coursework; that should come as no surprise to most knowledgeable applicants.  Fine, but is there a magical GPA and class ranking that assures a student's transcript leaps to the top of the heap? When you consider the number of valedictorians rejected by the 20 top selective schools (and a year ago University of Pennsylvania claimed hundreds were turned down), and the fact many high schools 'stopped ranking students,' then you realize there is little security in relying on grades to gain admission. Grades might (depending on the school) indicate work ethic, dedication, and intellectual curiosity but, then again, they might not. There is so much gaming involved with grades (whether to take AP, IB, or classes at a community college to gain a stronger weighting, or to find the teacher with lower standards that doles out easy A's) that admissions offices are wary of even the stellar transcripts. What, in the end, is important, is whether a candidate took content-rich courses (included in the A-E portion of the University of California subject requirements) and whether, through her transcript, recommendations-the whole application--- is seen a true intellectual curiosity. Does USC prefer the ACT or SAT?  Either is fine. Will a 36 on the ACT or a 2400 on the SAT guarantee acceptance to USC? No, the number of students with perfect standardized tests turned away by the most selective schools is legion. It was noted in the presentation, that the ACT allows the student to withhold scores from the admissions office. Since the ACT is gaining substantial ground on the SAT as the standardized test of choice, the SAT is considering implementing the same feature. Tim Brunold, however, doesn't like this situation. He wants to see all test scores when evaluating a candidate. It's an interesting minor issue, yet one that might tilt some applicants into exploring the ACT alternative. Lastly, in Brunold's opinion, it's a waste for applicants to take the test more than three times, "...don't make a career of taking tests." The key to getting the fat envelop from USC (and most selective schools) is to work hard, stay positive, prepare for your standardized tests, but not to the point of obsession, and, during all the challenges of the high school effort, try to discover what captures your interest. Once found, follow all paths to make this interest a passion.  The effort will spark your curiosity, build your interests, and make you a good candidate for a selective school. More importantly, it will make you a happier, more productive and interesting human being; that's the whole point of life, let alone college admissions. Ralph Becker Founder, Ivy College Prep LLC --------------------------------------